Tortillas and Refried Beans

Mexico is one of my favorite travel destinations.  I love the sun, sand, ocean, people and the food!  This year we were in Puerto Vallarta for the first time with some great friends and had a wonderful time. I have been adding Mexican recipes to my repertoire for years now trying to make them healthier as I go.

Sunset at Secrets Resort, Puerto Vallarta

My husband and I enjoyed eating traditional Mexican fare for breakfast this trip, chilaquiles, refried beans, tortillas, guacamole and salsa.  Yum!  (and I call myself a Nutritionist?) You know the saying "when in Rome, do as the Romans"... well, we figured it applied.  I came home with the desire to expand my skills and tackle tortillas which were made fresh in front of us on a number of occasions.

I needed a couple of specialty items to make tortillas and finally found them.  First, was a tortilla press.  After reading reviews of presses that didn't press evenly and weren't very well built, I purchased one at the The Compleat Cook in Calgary.  I am very pleased with it!  The second and most important was Masa Harina.  The special corn flour used to make tortillas.  It never ceases to amaze me how traditional societies knew what steps were necessary to make the foods available to them more nutritious.  

Breakfast in Mexico:  Papaya,guava, refried beans, scrambled eggs, chilaquiles.  Yum!

Masa Harina is, field corn (or maize) which is dried and then treated in a solution of lime and water, also called slaked lime. This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. In addition, the lime reacts with the corn so that the nutrient niacin (vitamin B) can be assimilated by the digestive tract.

The soaked maize is then washed, and the wet corn is ground into a dough, called masa. It is this fresh masa, when dried and powdered, that becomes masa harina. (Add water once again to make dough for tortillas or tamales.)

Knowing that much of the corn produced is genetically modified, I was on the hunt for "organic" masa harina only to find out it doesn't exist.  You see, because the corn is treated with lime, it cannot be called "organic".  I contacted Bob's Red Mill and they assured me that they use only seed from traditional sources and not gmo varieties.  I was satisfied with this.

I have made tortillas on two occasions now, following the recipe found on the back of the masa harina bag.  The amount of water added is the knack in successful tortilla making!  With a little experimenting, I turned out some great tortillas.  They had better flavour than any I have ever purchased and were nice and soft.  These I served with my favourite refried beans, guacamole and salsa.

Handmade Tortillas and refried beans

While traditional refried beans contain lard and little in the way of spice, my recipe is spiced but not "hot" and doesn't contain lard.  It has been a family fav for sometime now and when my daughter was still living at home, she loved to make them.  

Beans are one of those foods that we should eat on a regular basis as they contain fabulous amounts of fibre, calcium, iron, folic acid, B vitamins, zinc, potassium and magnesium.  If beans make you gassy, build up a tolerance for them by eating only small amounts to start and increasing over time or use products like Beano to prevent gas and bloating.

Refried Beans

  • 4 cups cooked black beans 
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt

I usually have soaked, cooked and then frozen beans of all kinds in my freezer to start, but you can use canned beans.

In a saucepan, melt coconut oil, saute garlic and onion until softened.  Add beans and remaining ingredients to the pot with about 2 cups of water and allow water to simmer down to about half.  At this time, use either a potato masher or hand blender to mash  beans into a smooth consistency.  Refried beans can be served runny or stiff, it depends how you like them or how long they have been in the pot!  Athe the buffet, they were runny at 7 am and quite thick by 9 am!  You can add more water or cook off moisture, depending on your preference.